Spotlight on Chris Luciani, City of Cleveland Coordinator

Chris Luciani is not only the Cultural Arts Manager for the City of Cleveland, but he has also been coordinating the National Arts Program® for the City of Cleveland, OH since its inception into the program twelve years ago. Each year Chris continues to expand and grow the exhibition with a record-breaking 213 participating artists in 2010.

Chris’ positive attitude towards the arts and the National Arts Program® is inspiring. The NAP is pleased to feature him as our February spotlight.

Q. What makes the National Arts Program® different than any other art exhibit displayed at the Arts Collinswood Gallery?
A. The Arts Collinwood Gallery mounts shows by professionals, featuring one, sometimes two artists. In any given show, the gallery has 15 – 25 pieces of artwork on the walls. Our show is unique in that it features over 200 artists, fills every inch of Gallery space {we have to bring in our own panels}, and has a variety of art styles, ranging from art created by the three-year-old, to that skillfully crafted by the professional.
Q. Why do you feel that displaying employee artwork is important?
A. Employee artwork, especially that created by untutored amateurs and youth artists, has a refreshing, almost folk-art quality that captures viewer interest because it is so fresh and unknown. The city employee, toiling at their craft in obscurity, has few opportunities if any to get their work into a gallery show, one judged by professionals. The show is important because so many artists need avenues to showcase their talents, and the National Arts Program® provides such a wide avenue for artists to channel their creative energies.
Q. How have employees and their families responded to the opportunity to display their artwork in a professional gallery setting?
A. Employees, families, and city residents love the chance to have their work seen in a professional setting. This show, for many, is another important date on the calendar, like an annual holiday, since it is anticipated and prepared for year-round.
Q. Can you tell us how art has had a positive impact on your personal life?
A. I am primarily a theater artist, but my twelve-year involvement as a Coordinator of NAP in Cleveland has given me a deep appreciation for visual art and an understanding of the creative spirit that compels artists to produce art in its many facets, contours, and shapes.
Q. How did you get started in the art field or have you always been involved in the arts? Are you an artist yourself?
A. I’ve always felt a passion for the arts, first as a musician, then as a creative drama specialist. I started in the field of working with urban youth, for whom, escape into the realm of the imaginative proved to be therapeutic and cathartic. It also gave these young people a measure of culture that they would have never experienced otherwise.
Q. Why do you think displaying employee artwork in a public setting is so important?
A. Displaying employee artwork in a public setting brings recognition, and it can provide a fresh outlook on that co-worker who we come to know in only the capacity of the skills they provide in their professional job. Many people do jobs out of necessity, not out of love. City employees, who make art in their spare time, have a heavy dose of the creative spirit that motivates them to create; hence the importance of having a show just for them.
Q. What is your favorite aspect of the National Arts Program®?
A. My favorite part of the NAP is at the opening, when I see the proud eight-year-old award winner, with their entire family in tow, getting pictures taken in front of his or her artwork. I think this could be a future Picasso or Dali, or a future film animator or graphic artist, and perhaps their push to continue creating may have come from their involvement in the NAP.
Q. Do visitors to the gallery respond to the exhibit?
A. Visitors to the gallery respond that they love the show for its color, originality, and the surprises that naturally come from taking in so many pieces of art from hundreds of artists. There is something for everyone to admire.
Q. Is there anything else you want to add? Comments about the program, etc.
A. Just that it’s great to be part of something that others in my field nationwide experience annually. I’d love to see what other coordinators do and how they approach mounting the NAP exhibit; the art I’ve seen from other venues is truly inspirational.